Terre Blanche Golf

GEO Certified® 10/2016
Tourrettes,
France
Telephone: +33 494399000
Terre-blanche-chateau_club_image

Executive summary (English & local language)

The Golf Terre Blanche, located in Tourrettes in the hart of the "Pays de Fayence" in the VAR (South of France, close to the Mediterranean, Cannes and Nice) has clearly taken a lot of effort to respect the natural environment and introduced some internal systems to let the nature as much as possible unharmed, so that people can enjoy this beautiful Mediterranean landscape.
This appreciated warm climate makes it tough to maintain a good turf quality on both 18 holes golf courses, but a very sophisticated irrigation system, good selection of strong grasses and intensive maintenance cope successfully with this challenge
From the construction of the golf and resort the opportunity to integrate the hilly natural environment with this typical Mediterranean natural environment was a challenge, but resulted in a golf that is intersected with ,natural woodland with nice vista's to the surrounding historic villages, but with hardly any view on the buildings of the golf. These efforts to make the golf course better mingle with the surrounding nature added to the steps previously taken to minimize its environmental foot print. This combined with a state of the art maintenance building, impressive documentation system were impressive steps to apply successfully for GEO recognition. As this label also expresses not only the environmental oriented approach but also the respect for the local community.
A major factor for the golf is the need for irrigation combined with the warm summers, what makes the grasses very susceptible to diseases. The selection of stronger grasses and maximization of mechanical maintenance activities, make the need of fungicidal treatments minimal.
Also the construction of a state of the art technical building with an integrated waste water treatment plant further minimizes the environmental impact of the golf club.
As such all criteria are met to grant the GEO recognition for a sustainability conscious golf club.

Sommaire Français:
Le Golf de Terre Blanche, situé à Tourrettes dans le cœur du «Pays de Fayence» dans le VAR (Sud de la France, près de la Méditerranée, Cannes et Nice) a clairement pris beaucoup d'efforts pour respecter l'environnement naturel et introduit un certain systèmes internes de laisser la nature intact, de sorte que les gens puissent profiter de ce beau paysage méditerranéen.
Ce climat chaud apprécié rend difficile de maintenir une bonne qualité du gazon sur les deux parcours de 18 trous, mais un système d'irrigation très sophistiqué, une bonne sélection d'herbes fortes et un entretien intensif affronter avec succès ce défi
De la construction du golf et de résort la possibilité d'intégrer l'environnement naturel vallonné avec cet environnement naturel typique de la Méditerranée était un défi, mais résultait dans un golf qui est recoupé avec des forets naturelles et des belles vues aux villages historiques environnants, mais avec presque aucune vue sur les bâtiments du golf. Ces efforts pour rendre le golf plus se mêler à la nature environnante ajoutés aux étapes précédemment prises pour minimaliser son empreinte environnementale. Ceci, combiné avec un état du bâtiment d'entretien de l'art, un impressionnant système de documentation qui était importantes étapes pour appliquer avec succès pour la reconnaissance GEO.
Un facteur important pour le golf est la nécessité pour l'irrigation combinée avec les étés chauds, ce que font les herbes très sensibles aux maladies. La sélection des herbes plus fortes et la maximisation des activités d'entretien mécanique, rendent le besoin de traitements fongicides minimal. Aussi la construction d'un état du bâtiment technique de l'art avec une usine de traitement intégrée des eaux usées en outre minimise l'impact environnemental du club de golf.
Ainsi, tous les critères sont remplis pour accorder la reconnaissance de GEO pour une durabilité consciente club de golf.

Nature

The course maintains some natural zones as regional woodland with grassy zones. During the construction of the site they have taken measures to save the trees present as much as possible which is also very clear around the roads close to the clubhouse and hotel that border the course. They created some artificial creeks with rapids and small waterfalls to link with the creeks/ponds, and is very much appreciated by the local wildlife.
Also there are additional shelther places for all types of animals (wood and stone piles)

They feed some duck species with clipped wings that live on a pond and house some black swans, but this creek is also used by wild ducks and other water birds (white egrets, swan, different kind of ducks were observed during the site visit).
There is a detailed list of available wildlife (birds/mammals, reptiles) but no further details are available on other wild animals nor has the flora been investigated un detail to determine the most vulnerable habitats. On the other hand the club respects the local vegetation as much as possible giving also opportunities to the wildlife.
As the re have been new habitats introduced by constructing the golf course, tha biodiversity has increased. Recently also badgers discovered the area as a living area that in the dry season is a source of food (rain worms live in the ground under the turf, which they dig up...)
Although the whole course is fenced except for side boarding the small river (Riou Blanche). Wildlife can enter via the river bedding, that in summer is dry and borders the course. It forms also a migration corridor for different species.
They try to make corridors for wildlife migration within the golf course, but also with the neighboring lake.
During the rainy evening I observed a large Bufo spinosus (spiny toad) that crossed my path and only recently has been recognized as a separate species of the common toad (both are protected species).

A study of the old castle area has been drawn that harbors some rare trees that have been planted. Most studies available have been to evaluate, study and formulate recommandations for the construction of the resort. It also includes lists of plants that can be used for the hosuing sites, that look out on the golf course and are part of the evironment of the resort as does the golf.

The golf course fits beautifully in the Mediterranean landscape with typical vegetation, locally mixed with more garden type plants, but for the golf course this is mainly limited to the artifical streams and close to the clubhouse, practice areas.

As the club is confronted with very hot summers, they have selected turf grass species that are very resistant to these conditions as Agrostis species and is not very sensitive to diseases.
Sometimes the turf is attacked by insect larvae and then specific nematodes are used to kill the bugs. Fungal diseases or weeds are treated with (when available) organic products and only on the spots that need treatment.
They have an intensive system of working the surface of turfgrass mechanically to avoid compaction. They combine this with sanding to improve the grass mat.
The cores are not collected but let to dry out, after which they are rubbed open so that the sand is evenly redistributed and the organic material is left as natural fertilizer.
Small areas that stay wet after irrigation are drained during winter time.

All the electric golf carts have a GPS system that does not allow that people get of the allowed tracks (e.g; driving into nature areas. When people get out of the allowed zones, the cart stops and people can then only pull back, till they are in the allowed zone again and continue there their way...)

When trees die, a new local species is planted to replace it.

Water

Water is obtained from the Societé du Canal de Provence and consumption is measured. The water is pumped in a pond from which is distributed in the irrigation system.
This system is monitored by computer, linked with automatic rain and wind monitoring and the system is so designed that all sprinklers are monitored and that problems can easily be detected from the screen. There is also a visual inspection of the watering in the morning.
As noticed from other golf course in the Provence, water consumption is high, but typical to maintain a playable turf matt. So apart from the tees and the greens also the fairways need watering.
Rain water infiltrates in the soil or is diverted to the pond.

The waste water goes to a public water purification plant. All road sewers that carry car traffic are connected to the water systems via a hydrocarbon separator.

The water from the large cleaning space (every worker has its own space, this to avoid waiting queues at the end of a working day...) for the vehicles is purified. The gutters are automatically cleaned twice a day to avoid that grass or other substances accumulating and causes clogging or odour.

To maintain a playable field daily irrigation of all the playing zones during dry periods (spring-autumn) summer is necessary, but supply of water is not an issue with the large lakes in the neighbourhood. The supply of drinking water and rough water for irrigation is controlled by external company.

Irrigation is controlled by computer and is performed during the night. By sudden rainfall the program will automatically halt based on the measured volume. Also to the rough the irrigation is adapted to the wind, so that course is optimally irrigated and not a lot off water is drifted away.

The collected rainwater (via hydrocarbon separator) from the technical maintenance building is collected and used for maintenance cleaning.

The wastewater from the technical and machine washing area is treated further after passing pretreatment (decanting) via a waste water treatment system Epiphyt. This system allows to reduce the final sludgemass to about 1% compared to traditional systems. Also the possible polluting fumes are absorbed (with traditional systems these are released in the environment). The treated water is reused for washing the machines.

Energy

Because of the scale of the golf facilities there is a reasonable consumption of energy. Several measures have been implemented or are planned to further reduce the energy consumption. Where possible natural light is used to minimize artificial lighting. Mostly energy friendly lighting is installed (LED), automatic adjustments (detectors, timers, seasonal variations), airlocks, insulated doors... could be observed.

The staff are trained. Suppliers have to sign a charter that includes several attention points to energy (as well as safety).
The new driving range has been partially buried and is build with a green roof for insulation against the heat.
Machines are very well maintained and regularly replaced by newer energy friendly machines. Recently hybrid mowing machines have been purchased.
The water pump for the circulation of the waterfalls is programmed so that water is only running when people are on the golf course.
All golf carts run on electricity. Currently already 5% of the mowers are hybrid machines. 60% of the utility vehicles run on electricity.

The investment in new equipment and the upgrading of buildings to avoid energy losses are showing off in the consumption numbers for diesel and electricity consumption.

No solar or wind energy is used due to the high investment costs of such installation what only results in a return on investment after a long period. At this moment it is as such also not promoted by the government as is often the case in other countries.

Install energy friendly lighting (LED). Lights out policy is introduced - when leaving the space. Timers for pumps of the water cascades so they only function when golfers are on the field.

Good maintenance of the machines. Regular replacement of older machines with new ones that consume less. Transitions to hybrid machines that consume less fuel are in place.

Supply Chain

The purchasing for the golf course is combined by the purchasing department of the resort Terre Blanche.
From the 137 suppliers, 12 suppliers (9%) are located within 10 km and 48 (35%) within 100 km range.

Where possible local suppliers are selected, but as the surrounding villages are rather small, most supplies have to be supplied from a larger area. Today 56% of the suppliers are located more than 100 km away.

Suppliers need to comply with a supplier charter, defining social and environmental factors as labour criteria. Further are local and ISO 9001/14001 certified suppliers favored. Also when possible larger packings are preferred to avoid waste.

The general purchasing of the goods for the whole of Terre Blanche results in some better purchasing prices for products used by different partners (larger quantities purchased), or by increased total purchased volumes for combined purchases with one supplier.

The greenkeeper can consult on an external specialist for support to select the best available products for preventive actions or local treatment when problems occur.
The fertilizing program is based on soil analysis and is adapted to weather conditions for optimal effects.

The grass clippings are left on the grassy areas - fairways, roughs.

Woody materials are chipped and used as groundcover in shrubby areas.

Recycled plastic pegs course, packaging of fertilizers and pesticides are washed before to be collected by our suppliers for recycling.

Pollution Control

Only small quantities of products like pesticides are kept on the premises and are stored in a special room. Keys are controlled via an electric system so that only authorized persons can enter the room.
Pesticides are only applied by certified persons (and using safety clothing, materials).
All floors that can be contaminated by pesticides/hydrocarbon products are covered and waste waters is captured to be treated.
A large underground basin has been constructed that can contain the content of a large oil truck, so that by an unlikely accident the content can be contained and not be transported to the municipal wastwater treatment plant.
The wastewater from the cleaning of pesticide tanks is connected to a special wastewater treatment system that filters out the water, so that finally only a small volume of watery sludge has to be collected by a specialised company.

Water is regularly analysed chemically as this is important to the quality of the turfgrass.

Household wastewater is discharged to the municipal waste water treatment plant.

Sludge (from the washing water of the machines that is collected in a sedimentation tank) is collected by a specialised company. Also the sludge from the waste water treatment installation is collected by a specialised company. The septic tanks of the toilets on the golf course are emptied by an external company.

Very strict protocols exist for storing and handling hazardous materials. Electronic key with registration of the key (administered to a person) and time the key has been removed (100% traceability when something should have happened) for unlocking the pesticide storage room.
Machines used are calibrated and products are prepared on designated areas with concrete floors. Rinsing liquids are collected via the specific waste water system.
Empty pesticide cannisters are rinsed before they are disposed to the specialised company.

Clubhouse is connected to the sewer. Apparatus in use are controlled as legally required.
Maintenance area is completely covered with concrete connected to sewers via a hydrocarbon separator and pesticides tanks are cleaned via a special water treatment system.
In the maintenance hall air aspirating installations are present for extraction of the combustion fumes.

Only qualified (and certified) employees are allowed to use hazardous products as pesticides.
Spraying on the golf course is only done when necessary and only the spots that need treatment are sprayed.

All rainwater from the roads that carry regular traffic from cars passes a hydrocarbon separator to prevent that oil or fuel is released to the natural environment

Community

As there was a lot of objection to the project of Terre Blanche when the initiatives are launched, the club did a lot of things for the community, such as constructing a waste water treatment plant for the whole of the club and the surrounding neighborhood, constructing a multifunctional sport stadium and sponsoring the local rugby club as direct input. Indirectly they buy a lot of products, services locally and are an important employer with over 50 people on the paying list.
Terre Blanche attracts also people that construct houses within Terre Blanche and buy a lot of products locally, also a lot of the visitors of the hotel (70% are non golfers) spend money in the small local (historic) villages. The golf clubhouse restaurant is open for external visitors.

A strict introduction system is in place and all employees have access to the central intranet with all documents and information/training materials etc.

The golf facility welcomes permanently three apprentices that combine learning by working in a company with a certain level of school going days.

The sustainability working group consists of the general manager, course manager, some committee members and a technical specialist for advice.

Several initiatives are installed to link golf with the local community:
• school children from Tourrette can learn to play golf on certain moments
• multifunctional sport stadium has been built for the community to use
• sponsors the local rugby club
• there are permanently three apprentices active (learning by working in a company combined with a certain level of school going days)

The golf and resort has been constructed in a way that buildings are hardly to be noticed (exept from one housing group) from the golf course. Most houses have a nice view on the landscape and golf, that is looking rather natural with all the tree groups scattered around the holes.
The hotel accomodation (separate houses) are very well integrated into the landscape and have mostly a vista to the natural landscape Mediterranean plants (mix of planted and original vegetation).
The terrain houses a small castle which is currently empty. Plans exist to restore it and transform it into a small conference center with meeting rooms. The area around the castle (large 19 century house) has some rare trees that are classified species, but these don't give the environment an exotic look, and blend nicely into the typical local pine forest.

There is an impressive intranet system that is used for all type of communication and has all the documents, information available.
It is such a vast set of information that it seems not always easy to find the specific document as became clear during the audit, but the day to day things were easily retrieved by the users.

(It became clear that a lot of the information on the system, like all press cuttings from the start of the project, were never visited by the people who accompanied me, as was the case for plans of the underground corridors that have been constructed to put all the tubings and wiring in. These corridors are always accessible and give the opportunity to do necessary repairs / upgrades without having to dig into the ground (with nuisance to the visitors) and made it also possible to save a lot of the original bordering trees. Now the tubes are put vertically on top of each other, where in the ground, certain safety distance need to be taken into account, making a much larger would be needed (with more trees to be cut, and on the long term more cost for maintenance and upgrades, as the road would every time be repaved)

There is a newsletter for the members containing some information on sustainability and some information is also distributed via the resort website.

Documentation Reviewed

Conclusion

The Terre Blanche Golf is working according the voluntary industry standards that GEO introduced for a sustainably managed golf club.
The golf employs an impressive number of staff and has implemented a very advanced communication system and follow up system as is more common in large industrial organisations.
Irrigation is monitored very closely with a computer system linked with meteorological data and visualising every individual sprinkler.
In general there is a high environmental concern and a lot of engineering ingenuity has been implemented by the creation of all aspects for maintenance of the golf course and buildings related to the facility.
They have several links with the local community via employment, buying locally, programs for local school kids, taking in apprentices and sponsoring a local sport club, apart from the realisations they have done previously for the local community (waste water treatment plant, sport stadium etc).
They are also very concerned about the local biodiversity and the link of the golf with the local nature (a lot of natural forest, open connection to a local river).
As such the club can be seen as exemplary for the integration of a golf course in the landscape and link the local nature (roughs and woodland) with the nature in the area.

Certification Highlights

It is impressive to see how the golf and the resort are mixed with a natural hilly landscape, where hardly any buildings, carpark or heliport can be noticed. A lot of measures taken are impressive and clearly illustrate the long term view of the management. Think e.g. at the technical corridors around new buildings and under the major roads, the huge facilities, with a complete equipped technical facility building to maintain the extensive machine park. Also the wash areas has a specific spot for all the employees using vehicles. The waste water of the spraying machines is treated in a specific waste water treatment plant before it is released. All roads for regular vehicles, and the parking areas are connected to a hydrocarbon separator water treatment installation.
To not disturb the golf zones nor nature areas, the electric carts have a GPS not allowing people to get of the golf track.
The electronic controlling system allowing to see who is using or was the last person to use a certain facility helps to keep a high standard of work as problems are immediately reported and acted upon.
New employees get a real introduction program before they are allowed to work alone, and apprentices are accepted to train in a very well equipped and organized organization, as also the internal communication and information system is completely running via the intranet, that can be accessed by every employee.
Also the available information on the intranet is amazing and has all the procedures, protocols, history and links to external sources where necessary (e.g. internal safety sheets refer to external link to obtain the most recent version of a safety data sheet according to REACH).
And last but not least the increasing number of animal species that find the resort a nice place to live, and this with only a minimal inventory of animal groups.